The MPAA’s relationship to sex in movies has always been problematic, but this new bit of information is still pretty shocking: Based on an anecdote that Emily Browning told Nylon magazine about a sex scene cut from Sucker Punch, it would appear that a movie in which the female character enjoys sex can’t get lower than an R rating. However, it does explain why Jon Hamm‘s cameo in the movie is ridiculously small.
Browning told Nylon,
“I had a very tame and mild love scene with Jon Hamm. It was like heavy breathing and making out. It was hardly a sex scene… I think that it’s great for this young girl to actually take control of her own sexuality. Well, the MPAA doesn’t like that. They don’t think a girl should ever be in control of her own sexuality because they’re from the Stone Age. I don’t know what the f**k is going on and I will openly criticize it, happily. So essentially, they got Zack to edit the scene and make it look less like she’s into it. And Zack said he edited it down to the point where it looked like he was taking advantage of her. That’s the only way he could get a PG-13 (rating) and he said, ‘I don’t want to send that message.’ So they cut the scene!”
While Browning’s explanation is hearsay and there doesn’t seem to be a cut-and-dried MPAA guide that corroborates it, it makes a lot of sense. Plus, it creates a disturbing dynamic if you take Browning’s quote to mean that the MPAA will award a lower rating to a scene that seems to depict rape, as opposed to sex that a woman actually wants and enjoys.
And while men aren’t condescended to in the same way, there is the strange double standard that in these higher-rated films it’s fine to show the female orgasm on-screen — whether it’s faked like in When Harry Met Sally or “real” in a movie like Unfaithful — but you hardly ever see the male equivalent in non-comedies.
At least Blue Valentine scored a minor victory by convincing the MPAA to reduce its NC-17 rating (for a scene where Ryan Gosling goes down on Michelle Williams) to an R.